Access to, and the availability of, game shooting has never been more egalitarian than it is today. Whether you’re a single gun looking to join a team, a group of friends from overseas wanting your first taste of British game shooting or you are a collection of experienced shots seeking sport on a variety of different estates around the country, there are numerous sporting agents and websites that offer shooting, in all its forms, in every part of the British Isles. And, should you want to be involved in the day without taking part in the shooting; wives, children and (very) well behaved dogs are welcome.
Your actual time on the peg; pulling the trigger, is, in fact, but a small part of the overall day. While it is the sport that brings people together, for many, it is the enjoyment of spending a day out in the great British countryside with like-minded people that brings the real enjoyment. The camaraderie between the guns, beaters, pickers-up and gamekeepers is second to none.
There is more to a day’s shooting than merely reaching the bag as Westley Richards former Gunroom Manager explains.
The cold morning chill; fluorescent, autumnal colours; the smell of gunpowder hanging in the mist; the gentle whimpering of over-excited dogs, the first sip of soul-warming sloe gin; pre-drive nerves followed by an injection of adrenaline at the first flush; the majesty of a towering cock pheasant, wings set, effortlessly gliding across the valley; the quiet admiration of the stylish single shot that folds a super-high bird; and the belly-laughs at that unfortunate friend who can do nothing but clean miss. Just a few emotions that I conjure-up, when thinking about a great passion of mine: driven game shooting. Not only a sport but a way of life for many; a sport deeply ingrained in the history and landscape of the British Isles.
When autumn comes Northern Italy plays host to a very different type of sport with a specific breed of gundog, as Lyn Monk reports.
When the weather turns from late summer into autumn and the cold morning air carries the sound of the deer rutting in the woods it’s time for a small group of enthusiastic owners and their lagotto romagnolo dogs to make the long drive back to the ancestral home of the breed – the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.
The lagotto romagnolo is a little curly-coated duck retriever and truffle hunter which has been in existence in the region since Etruscan times and the seventh century BC. The breed’s main function then was to retrieve live wildfowl from the vast marshlands back to a flat bottom punt for his peasant masters. There is even a beautiful Fresco painted by Andrea Mantegna in 1474 at the Ducal Palace Mantua showing the Lagotto under the legs of the people. We can proudly say it looks like the same dog that you see today without change. Written records exist from 1591 onwards and in an Erasmus of Valvasone poem The Hunter he wrote about the dog of the region: “We need a rough and curly haired breed of dog that does not fear sun, ice or water that climbs mountains, fords rivers and runs on to steep rocky places, it’s head and hair resemble that of a ram and it brings the bird back to the hunter merrily.”
The pursuit of trophy class Roe buck (Capreolus Capreolus) in the British Isles remains one of the finest sporting challenges for the recreational deer stalker.
Roe buck stalking outside of the rut is about early mornings and late evenings. During April and May the British countryside bursts into life with deer movement all around. Mature bucks establish territories in readiness for the rut late summer. Younger bucks pushed out by these mature bucks often make up the early season quota.
It’s morning frost on the hood of a land cruiser that crystallises a complex layer of thorn scratches, lacerations and claw marks from decades of exploration; a cool breeze on your face as you drive around for hours in the hunting rig, blissfully daydreaming until you’re ripped from the reverie by cat-claw thorns tearing through two shirt layers and drawing blood.
It’s the smell of parched topsoil getting its first drink of rain as the monsoons precipitate their arrival; the taste of a hand-rolled cigarette after lunch, lit by the same match that sets an early-season management fire, which in turn brings a chaotic hurricane of birds to devour the winged insects fleeing from the climbing flames. Or it’s a midday nap under the shade of an acacia tree with pant legs tucked into your socks to prevent soldier ants from biting ankles tender from tracking buffalo, only to be woken by a lion’s call a few hundred yards away, then not being able to fall back asleep because it might’ve been closer.
There are some things in this world that defy conventional description, where language can fall short of communicating these experiences or the complex meanings behind them. In the same way that an inspiring dream or revelation can evade articulation, I’ve always found it difficult to describe my love for Africa to someone who has never been. However, that has never stopped me from trying to understand the root of this passion that has inspired so many artists, writers, adventurers, hunters and conservationists over the centuries.
In my experience there is little sentimental middle ground; one either can’t endure the harsh elements, relentless insects, and logistical chaos, or one absolutely loves it and the charms sink deep into one’s bones, never to leave. Africa becomes a calling that must be answered and many have pursued it relentlessly even to their demise. But what is it exactly that we love so much? Ask anyone who’s spent an extended amount of time in the bush and they’ll probably tell you that it’s small observations of the senses that provide the vibrant source of what we know Africa to be. These are things you often don’t realise until later, having to reflect on the source of mild melancholy that creeps in once you return home.
When I first arrived at Westley Richards, one of the areas that really impressed me was the quality and depth of photography the company had produced over the years. This in large part began with Simon Clode, the former Chairman & Managing Director of the company, who as a young man developed a keen interested in the medium while studying art at the British Institute in Florence. It was during this time of experimentation with cameras, darkrooms and composition that Simon established his uncompromising eye for fine detail and appreciation of aesthetics.
This post was originally put up by Simon Clode back in 2013 and it seems more relevant now that we all have more time on our hands!!!! A few newer titles have been released by the modern hunting book suppliers including Kai-Uwe Denkers ‘About The Spirit Of The African Wilderness’ available from Trophy Room Books, and Robin Hurts ‘A Hunter’s Hunter’ available from Safari Press. Both of these books are destined to become hunting classics and if nothing else they should get us in the spirit for our next safari adventure!
Now to Simon’s original posting.
There are literally 1000’s of books on the market which touch on our sport, in one way or another. Be they on guns, rifles, wing-shooting or big game hunting the choice is far and wide. Here at Westley Richards many of us have collected books on our sport since an early age and are often showing off to each other the ‘rare book’ we have just managed to acquire. It seemed appropriate to ask a few other well known book collectors, writers and sellers what their 10 best books were, the ones they feel every sportsman should read and have in their library. I hope it proves informative and helpful.
Anthony Alborough-Tregear “Trigger” runs the gunroom and production at Westley Richards and has been collecting books on guns and hunting since the age of 15. His list is biased towards Africa and the hunting of Elephants to which he has now progressed after many years obsessively stalking Roe deer.
African Rifles & Cartridges – John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor
Modern Sporting Gunnery – Henry Sharp
The End Of The Game – Peter Beard
African Hunter – James Mellon
The Maneaters Of Kumoan – Jim Corbett
The Wanderings Of An Elephant Hunter – W.D.M.Bell
The Adventures Of An Elephant Hunter – James Sutherland
Travel And Adventure In South East Africa – F.C.Selous
White Hunters – Brian Herne
Elephant Hunters – Men Of Legend – Tony Sanchez Arino
During what we are regularly being reminded of as such unprecedented times, here at Westley Richards we are keen to keep friends and followers of The Explora as entertained as possible with this increased time at home.
Each week Trigger will be collating an ultimate guide to the gun and rifle models built here at Westley Richards, featuring unique calibres, prized engravings and intriguing facts. Posted every Friday for the next few weeks so do keep an eye out for those.
Alongside that we will be producing our regular editorial around exploits in the field and on safari, new guns and used ones for sale, hunting ephemera and great reads, a continued sneak peak behind the scenes of our gun and leather making, as well as ideas for you at home to get involved in…
Dedicated readers will remember a competition run back in 2015 called ‘The Greatest Adventurer’ where we asked you to share your adventure story that involved a product purchased from Westley Richards. A hugely successful experience with some fantastic entries and a worthy winner – Mr K Nash.
As a result we thought this the perfect time to revisit, and this year we are offering you the chance to win our canvas Sutherland safari travel bag, personalised with your choice of initialling.
Whether you’ve got a great safari tale with our Explora bag? Walked a 1000 miles in a pair of Courteney boots? Enjoyed a great day on a game shoot with our Deeley slip or shooting coat? We would love to hear it.
One of the first striking displays I noticed at the Westley Richards flagship and factory, a few months back, is the wonderful grid of thirty framed red stag and roebuck prints up on the wall in the apartment. It is not only visually impressive but the variety and individuality is somewhat staggering.
In the lead up to the stalking season I thought it an ideal moment to delve deeper into this unusual print collection, and in turn its origins. This was a far greater undertaking than I had planned as the prints themselves hold little written information and what there was, was in German! I understood from their original folio case that the set was first published in 1891 by Georg Albrecht zu Erbach-Erbach and printed in Leipzig, but that was essentially it.
Old original folio of the prints named Selecta and published by Georg Albrecht zu Erbach-Erbach in 1891.